Qualcomm Technologies said it hopes to make fully reconfigurable flexible wireless factories possible with the launch of a new 5G modem chip optimized for industrial internet of things (IoT).
The new Qualcomm 315 5G IoT modem-RF system is the company’s first, purpose-built IoT modem solution equipped with 5G connectivity and optimized for industrial IoT (IIoT) applications.
In a press briefing to launch the new solution, Vieri Vanghi, VP of product management for Qualcomm, said three factors define the new chipset: low power, thermal efficiency, and a smaller form factor than existing 5G chipsets. These are essential factors in enabling the deployment of 5G in flexible wireless factories of the future, where he said a factory floor can be “reconfigured at will”.
The Qualcomm 315 5G IoT modem supports global 5G NR sub-6GHz bands and operates in stand-alone (SA) only mode, with the capability to switch to LTE as needed, and can be deployed over private or public 5G networks, leveraging network slicing or in isolation. This solution is optimal for IoT applications that can be seamlessly integrated with existing ethernet and wired technologies. The new modem comes with extended life software and hardware maintenance and support, prolonging IoT devices for the duration of their life span. This new solution will help accelerate the digital transformation of the 5G IIoT industry, proliferating 5G for IoT.
With the global expansion of 5G, the Qualcomm 315 5G IoT modem is a new solution serving the high end of IoT broadband modems, complementing Qualcomm Technologies’ existing portfolio of LTE IoT modems with a path towards 5G proliferation. Additionally, due to its reduced footprint and highly integrated RF front-end, this solution expands the portfolio, purposely designed to provide a pin-to-pin compatible solution for current LTE legacy modules. This provides legacy modules with ability to upgrade their solutions with no changes needed to existing hardware, minimizing development efforts, costs and providing a seamless transition from LTE to 5G.
The needs of modern IoT include seamlessly transitioning wired factories to wireless with solutions capable of supporting both LTE and 5G connectivity. The Qualcomm 315 5G IoT modem was designed with industrial and enterprise applications in mind, built with premium gigabit class performance, low-power, and thermal-efficient capabilities to enable a new generation of IoT solutions. The Qualcomm 315 5G IoT modem is intended to meet the needs of industry segments including: retail, energy, automation and manufacturing, precision agricultural, construction, mining, and public venues.
Significance of smaller footprint 5G
Qualcomm’s Vanghi explained that the smaller footprint is “incredibly important”. He said, “We can enable up to 50% footprint reduction compared to existing chipsets that operate with mmWave. And that means we can enable modules that are of the same size as existing LTE modules. Today if you look at any 5G chipset that goes in any 5G module, their size means they are not suitable for IoT devices in the factory. And then you have LGA modules but even those are fairly large, typically 3.5 x 3.5 cm – which are much larger than existing LTE modules. So, by reducing the footprint, our customers can have 5G modules in the same form factor as their LTE modules, with the same pinout as existing legacy LTE modules.”
This, he said, will enable quicker transition in the industrial IoT space from Wi-Fi to 5G. “That has incredible advantage in terms of accelerating devices from LTE to 5G. So, a device OEM can swap out an LTE module, and replace it with a 5G pin-to-pin compatible module with virtually no or minimum changes to the hardware.”
Jeffery Torrance, senior vice president, product management at Qualcomm Technologies, added, “We are pleased to unveil our new 5G IoT solution which will help stimulate and scale the 5G IoT industry and enable the transitions needed for Industry 4.0. This solution will help create long-lasting devices and promote growth and expansion in the 5G IoT industry, allowing seamless integration for customers utilizing previous generations of connectivity.”
Vanghi said the main initial target market is those adopting 5G standalone, which is primarily China and Europe. In its announcement, Qualcomm highlighted a number of customers it is engaged with and currently in the process of delivering samples, including Bosch, Fibocom, HMS, MeiG, Quectel, Schneider Electric, Siemens and Telit.
Key 5G module and device makers already engaged
On the same day Qualcomm announced this chipset, Quectel announced two new 5G new radio (NR) module series, the RG500S and RM500S, based on the new Qualcomm 315 modem; both modules support customers in building dedicated 5G devices for a variety of verticals including industrial IoT, retail, smart energy, and private 5G networks.
The key argument Qualcomm’s Vanghi made about seamless transition from LTE to 5G with pin compatibility is played out in the new Quectel modules. The RM500S is pin-to-pin compatible with Quectel’s LTE Cat 4, Cat 6, Cat 12, and Cat 16 modules, as well as its 5G module RM500Q. This, said Quectel, will help accelerate the 5G IoT market in the industrial and consumer IoT segments with use cases across robotics, automation, intelligent manufacturing, energy distribution, precision agriculture, construction, and mining.
Another customer is Telit. The company’s vice president for 5G products, Marco Contento, said, “The introduction of the Qualcomm 315 5G IoT modem represents an important milestone that paves the way for bringing 5G 3GPP Release 16 connectivity to the 5G IoT industry. This new system will serve a number of commercial and industrial use cases where until now there hasn’t been a 5G connectivity solution available, in particular energy distribution, smart grid technologies, and industrial control and automation. And, because the Qualcomm 315 5G IoT modem also supports applications currently served by LTE networks, it provides customers with a future-proof path for 5G device migration.”
Industrial equipment developer HMS Networks’ Jens Jakobsen, a development manager at its initiative for new innovation and technology, HMS Labs, said, “We recently released the first commercially available 5G router for industrial automation – a solution that utilizes Qualcomm Technologies’ 5G solutions. The interest for 5G in industrial applications is steadily growing and we see many advantages with the announcement of the Qualcomm 315 5G IoT modem, as it will enable a smaller formfactor for industrial devices and open up new use cases.”
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